excellenceNow Read This!

One of my favorite professional development tools is a bookshelf lined with my library of business books.

If you read business books regularly and apply what you learn, you would absorb a wealth of business know-how that would benefit you in your leadership career.

I utilize more data, concepts, and techniques from these business books than I do from my MBA, and I received very good grades.

Making these treasures available to my team allows them to grow and promotes many valuable conversations that benefit the company.


Here is a list of my top six business books I recommend you add to your reading list and start reading immediately:

  1. Good to Great – Jim Collins

“Why Some Companies Make The Leap… And Others Don’t”

Jim’s last book Built to Last explained how companies with with excellent DNA continued to succeed long term.  Now the top business author of these times covers how average or even poor businesses graduate to greatness.  The greatest strength of this read is the wealth of empirical data.  The findings are unforgettable and invaluable nuggets of wisdom available in precious few business books ever.

This may be my favorite non-Peters (Tom Peters is my favorite author and will suffer no comparisons) business book.  Jim “zooms in” on a culture of discipline… companies with halls filled with disciplined people who think and act in a disciplined manner.  Littered with example stories from great companies, Good to Great is the well-lit path to business excellence.  I feel sorry for any business executive who has not read this Jim Collins classic.

  1. Start with Why – Simon Sinek

“How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone To Take Action”

Most companies develop an elevator pitch that clearly explains what they do.  Sinek’s landmark work demonstrates that what is critical to success is not what but why.  This book will stir the insides of the student of business.  Simon shows how the great companies inspire us rather than sell to us.  They look for clients who believe what they believe and foster a passionate relationship with customers who morph into raging evangelists.

The computer company “What” is “We make great computers.  They’re user friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use.  Want to buy one?”

Apple’s “Why” is “With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo.  We aim to think differently.  Our products are user friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use.  We just happen to make great computers.   Want to buy one?”

If the latter example turns you on, please read Sinek’s book.  You will not want to put it down.  Watch a teaser at https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en

  1. Drive – Daniel Pink

“The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”

If you’re paying for a compensation consultant, it’s time to save some money and simply read this gem from Daniel Pink.  While you’re eliminating your comp consultant, you can also eat your carrot and burn your stick.

Pink demonstrates money is not the solution to motivation.  Over forty years of research reveals autonomy, mastery and purpose are the motivators most professionals seek.  He is specific in providing well-thought and sometimes surprising methods for mastering his unique solutions.

This book surprised me more than any other business book I’ve read.  Pink should not be taken for granted.  This is valuable information that will change how you approach compensation forever.

  1. The Energy Bus – Jon Gordon

“10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy”

When you see this book, you’ll quickly realize it is radically different from the other seminal works listed here.  Jon Gordon wrote this quick, simple book to tell a childlike story that drives home ten points.  It’s all about creating the positive culture that in turn drives a high level of success.

A funny thing happens when your employees read it, they change!  Their attitude improves.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  If you read my last blog article suggestion regarding a celebration at the end of each team member’s (employee’s) probationary period, this is the perfect gift for each person.  It seems like a large investment if you have hundreds on your team but it’s actually a no-risk assurance your team chemistry and culture will improve.  That is priceless!

  1. In Search of Excellence – Tom Peters and Bob Waterman Jr.

“Lessons From America’s Best-Run Companies”

This is simply the best business book I’ve read, written by my favorite business author and guru, Tom Peters.  If you haven’t witnessed Tom as a speaker, please do so – you will be moved.  At least read his books and this is the best of his best.  End of enthusiastic rant!

In Search of excellence started out as a research project that evolved into a 700-slide two-day presentation.  Published in 1982, this timeless treasure is still widely read.  Peters and Waterman identify eight themes present in 43 best-run companies.  The eight characteristics are:

  • A Bias For Action – An excellent core value for almost any company
  • Close To The Customer – Where we should be learning
  • Autonomy & Entrepreneurship – Foster freedom and nurture business people
  • Productivity Through People – Treat rank-and-file team members as your quality assurance
  • Hands On, Value Driven – Management by Walking Around (MBWA) … Engaged Leadership
  • Stick To Your Knitting – Do what you know well and diversify within that constraint
  • Simple Form, Lean Staff – Hire the right people and you don’t need many <gasp> bosses
  • Loose-Tight Properties – Autonomy on the plant floor and lived, centralized values
  1. The Alliance – Reid Hoffman

“Managing Talent in the Networked Age”

The Co-founder and Chairman of LinkedIn caught me by surprise.  I didn’t expect big things from this one but I wanted to learn more about the human resources (please don’t name a department this) aspect of business.  Wow!  This work changed my whole perception of the relationship between employee and employer.

Honesty should be an assured trait in any relationship.  If you planned to leave your employer in two years and start your own business, would you tell your boss?  Would the two years be declared as your next “tour of duty”?  Would your employer go out of their way to ensure your experiences over the next two years prepare you for this endeavor?  This is how they do it an LinkedIn!  Honesty… and it works!  This is a must read and buy two so you H/R team can share the spare copy!

These six and many other great business books should be the text books in our MBA programs.  Your business book library will help you grow as a leader and allow you to provide the same growth opportunity to your present and future leaders.  If you haven’t already read these books, they’re a great place to start.  Happy reading!

I hope this lesson on great business books has you thinking.  Here is a link to my conversation with Jim Crocker on the Boardroom Metrics Podcast called ‘Doug’s Business Book Shelf’:




“When you’re green, you’re growing’ when you’re ripe, you’re rotten”